Magazine article The Crisis

Network Takes Hip-Hop Back to Its Roots

Magazine article The Crisis

Network Takes Hip-Hop Back to Its Roots

Article excerpt

Atonn Muhammad well remembers the moment he fell in love with hip-hop. It was the late 1980s when he heard the album "It lakes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" by the rap group Public Enemy, whose rebellious rhymes paid homage to activists Malcolm X and Stephen Biko.

"The music changed my life," says Muhammad, 34, a native of Washington, D.C.

For most of its history, hiphop maintained a creative balance between artists such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, who produced partyoriented fare, and other artists such as KRS One, whose material offered socio-political commentary. But in recent years, a growing chorus of voices has decried the hip-hop industry's promotion of offensive themes and imagery, from artists with lyrics that glorify violence to the negative portrayal of women in some music videos.

Muhammad, 34, was a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley when BET was sold to Viacom for $3 billion in 2000. Concerned by the increasingly negative stigma attached to hip-hop, Muhammad decided to take action.

"I had an epiphany," he recalls. "It was clear that with BET, MTV and VHl all owned by the same corporation, that we needed an independent outlet."

Prior to his work as an investment advisor, Muhammad booked gigs for hip-hop acts and gained a rolodex full of recording industry contacts. After recruiting the likes of rapper and activist Chuck D and the legendary breakdancing collective the Rock Steady Crew to be on his board of advisors, Muhammad launched an aggressive fundraising effort which netted $350,000.

That proved enough to obtain television rights from independent producers to air their content, and in July 2006 the Real Hip Hop Network (RHN) was launched. …

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